When the air changes from warm and humid to cold and dry, it affects nearly every system of the body. Signs of dehydration are sometimes evident internally to those who are very in tune with their bodies, but they are often not noticeable to most. When we can visibly see dehydration through symptoms like dry skin and chapped lips, we begin to take more notice.
Chapped lips in the winter
time are a big issue for many families, mine included. I’ve mentioned before that I am a bit of a lip balm addict. I won’t go to sleep without it and I keep a tube at arm’s length in every room of my house, and that is for a reason. During the winter, I’ve always been susceptible to severe chapped lips. I get the dry flakey, scaly look, as well as the painful cracks in the corners of my mouth. I rarely get chapped lips any other time of year, but since it’s been so painful in the winter for so many years I slather the lip balm on anyway, all year round. My younger daughter is also prone to the same severe chapped, cracked lips, and I’ve had several clients ask me how to prevent it and how to treat it for themselves and their own children.
Causes of Chapped Lips:
As I said earlier, the change from a warmer, more humid climate to colder, dryer weather is enough on its own to cause a change in the skin. The skin’s barrier is dependent on hydration from the inside out as well as the outside in to protect us on the inside. If there is less moisture in the air for the skin to absorb, the skin will then dry up and begin to build up its outermost layer of ‘dead ‘ (but still very important) cells in order to provide more protection from the elements.
There are other causes as well. Certain nutritional deficiencies can cause the skin to dry out and crack. Vitamins A
, E, as well as the B vitamins are known to nourish the skin. They are found in many topical skincare products, but topical application alone will not fully address the problem if the deficiency is caused by a lack of these nutrients in one’s diet. A lack of Omega 3 fatty acids and inadequate consumption of other healthy fats, in addition to dehydration caused by inadequate daily water intake will also contribute to chapped lips and dry skin.
How about external causes for chapped lips?
Besides nutritional deficiencies and dehydration, there are some external causes of chapped lips including allergic and irritant reactions to chemicals either in household cleaning products, personal care and skincare products, as well as pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals added to processed and packaged foods. UV radiation from the sun can also contribute, in addition to smoking, and indoor and outdoor air pollution, and certain medications.
Consuming too much alcohol
is also a big cause of dehydration in the body which will often manifest on the skin.
Dry, chafed, chapped, and cracked skin is a big concern, because it indicates a weakness in the skin’s barrier function. This is a big issue in terms of immunity, especially during cold and flu season.
Holistic ways to prevent and heal chapped lips
First of all, make sure you are eating a good variety of fresh, whole foods.
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are very high in the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to nourish the skin from the inside out. Omega 3 fatty acids are also very important. The majority of us get plenty of Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids from our diets; it is the Omega 3 that most people have a deficiency.
These are found in pasture-raised animal products like eggs and raw milk. You won’t find them in conventionally, factory farmed animal foods. They are also abundant in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, krill, and some others. Certain plant foods like flax seeds and chia seeds also contain Omega 3 fatty acids, which vegetarians and vegans love, but the animal sources are known to be more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Due to issues with mercury contamination in fish, as well as the many issues surrounding the poor nutritional density of conventional animal products, a very high quality Omega 3 supplement is ideal. I personally use and recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 3 capsules. They are now available with vitamin D3 as well which is equally as important this time of year.
Drink lots of water and use a humidifier
Many people are under the false assumption that they need to drink less water when they are not sweating as much as they do in the summer. False! Every cell of the body needs water to properly function. Try drinking your water warm during the winter so that you don’t catch a chill. A humidifier can help combat the overly dry indoor air quality produced by forced air heating systems during the winter and prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) via evaporation. Yes, the moisture in your skin can evaporate!
Be gentle with your lips and skin.
Many people, even certain skincare professionals, recommend exfoliating chapped lips with abrasive sugar scrubs or a soft toothbrush. I do not recommend this at all. Chapped, cracked lips are already inflamed and painful. They are trying to hold on to that skin for protection. Prematurely removing it will only cause further inflammation and injury to the tissues. I suggest using a hydrating aloe vera or glycerin-based cleanser with natural ingredients to wash your face, and either rose, lavender, or calendula hydrosol as a toner. These will tone the skin without stripping the natural oils, soothe damaged tissue, and also provide hydration. Moisturize with natural products containing emollients like argan oil, jojoba oil, rosehip seed oil, and shea butter. Avoid chemical preservatives, detergents like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, artificial fragrances, and other harsh ingredients.
But how do I fix chapped lips?
For cracked corners and severe chapped lips, I recommend applying pure aloe vera gel,
colloidal silver gel, or pure hyaluronic acid gel to the affected areas and let it dry completely. A drop of lavender, myrrh, or frankincense essential oil can be mixed in to help the skin heal as the aloe or colloidal silver protects. You can also take hyaluronic acid internally to help bind moisture to all of the cells and tissues of the body from the inside out. I recommend NeoCell
Once it is dry, apply coconut oil or the Holistically Haute Apothecary Lip Balm (the recipe below is your special treat!) on top. Do this several times a day until the wounds are healed. Apply the lip balm generously throughout the day and before bed at night.
Note: Many people apply petroleum jelly or petrolatum-based lip balms to chapped lips. This is not helping! These are not actually moisturizers, they are occlusives. All they do is sit on top of the skin and form a barrier. They do not penetrate the skin and actually moisturize or nourish the tissue below. These products can prevent TEWL, yes, but they do not actually heal the injured tissue. They also are refined petrochemicals that should not be consumed internally, and we know that a very large percentage of what you put on your lips actually gets ingested.
Natural emollient moisturizers like coconut oil have many inherent healing properties–these are the best ingredients to heal chapped lips. They heal, nourish, protect, and prevent TEWL.
Recipe for the Holistically Haute Apothecary Lip Balm:
This lip balm is the bomb. It heals, protects, and stays on for a really long time. This balm is also 100% natural and is safe to ingest, even for children. It is also really easy, really inexpensive, and super quick to make. I get most of my ingredients and the empty tubes and pots from Mountain Rose Herbs
- 3 tablespoons of organic coconut oil (make sure this is food grade; cosmetic grade should not be ingested)
- 1 tablespoon of beeswax pastilles
- 1 drop each of Frankincense (Myrrh can also be used here) and Lavender essential oils. These oils are the most healing for chapped lips.
- Melt the beeswax and coconut oil in a double boiler or small saucepan (it really helps if it has a spout) over a very low flame.
- Once it is completely melted, remove from the heat and add the essential oils. Stir. Once it is all mixed, pour the mixture immediately into empty lip balm tubes or pots. It will start to harden fairly quickly.
- Let it sit for a few hours before use to make sure it is completely cured and you will be good to go.
Make sure you have lots of empty tubes or pots on hand because this little recipe will make 4 or 5 lip balms. It’s a great stocking stuffer, and it’s also great to have on hand for house guests. Enjoy!
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